New Years Day (Friday) 1st January 2010
Blue Square Conference North
Fleetwood Town 4 Southport 0
Admission: £10 standing, £1 transfer for the seats
Tea hut purchases: Steak Pie (Pukka variety) £2.20, Tea £1
Weather: Very cold but dry and clear
Parking: Roadside about 5 minutes from the ground, easy exit This top of the table clash was 1 of only 2 games surviving the deep freeze in the Conference North. Southport had just extended their lead over second placed Fleetwood by blitzing them 5-0 on Boxing Day, this re-run, this time at Fleetwoods place only beat the weather courtesy of some rather good frost covers, a massive round of applause for Fleetwood investing in decent quality pitch protection, its proved to be of match saving benefit on a few occasions already this season, all the more decisive when around them other teams fixtures continually fall by the wayside (and I include some well established football league clubs in that category). A number of rumours had circulated that Southport stuffed Fleetwood on Boxing Day because half the Fleetwood team were still sozzled from excessive christmas shenanigans. It is more likely that Southport exploited a difficult Haig Avenue pitch much better than the away side but the hurt could clearly be seen as the Cod Army descended on the smart little stadium known as Highbury. Even old timers in woolly mittens and C&A car coats looked 'well up for it' as they shouted out barbed abuse to the big time charlies from salubrious Southport. A well heeled couple from Southport sat next to me visibly appeared 'rattled' at the venomous bite of the banter (they whispered it was probably best to clap for both teams today), three seats down Owd Jack took another swig from his hip flask, apparently his wife Doreen was still in the bar. The match was bound to be spicy and the first 15 minutes proved the point. Southport didn't get to be top of the league by being easily bullied but try as they might to counter the relentless Fleetwood determination and menace, the home side soon started to make clear inroads and advances. Fleetwood were faster to the ball, more stronger in the tackle and clearly more eager to dominate the proceedings in the Southport half of the pitch. Southports 4-4-2 had quickly eroded to a 7-1-2.Wave after wave of red shirted marauders pillaged the Southport end of the field, nothing nor nobody was spared, as they say in those Vietnam atrocity movies "They did the whole goddam Village"! The fact that Southport had Alan Moogan sent off just before half time mattered little to the greater scheme of things, Fleetwood already led 1-0 and it was inevitable that the lead would be extended irrespective of how many players Southport had on the pitch. The second half was all one way showboating from Fleetwood, they simply blew Southport away.
The game had drawn in a very creditable 2,541 spectators, included in that figure would have been a few neutrals just glad to see a game, about 150 to 200 from Southport and a whopping big contingent getting behind Fleetwood as they step up the challenge at the top of the table. The Highbury ground is soon to be developed further with a new main stand and this will make the ground one of the best in the entire non-leagues.This club seeks success and there is no mistaking the primary urge to move towards football league status (sooner rather than later). Hopefully the new stand can bring along more spaced out facilities as well, the massed seething hordes heaving through the corner of the stadium for a half time cup of tea or a desperate trip to the toilet proved a most unwelcome and uncomfortable experience (something already commented on elsewhere by other neutrals who were at the match such as Leyther Matt). Everything is currently wedged in one tight corner area, this includes the tea hut, the bar, the toilet and the turnstile and exit gates. A minor grumble about an otherwise decent looking ground.
Probably shouldn't have worn my old Tottenham Hotspur hat though, the raffle ticket seller got a bit loud and abusive when I didn't buy a go, I think he may have thought I was on a jolly from the 75 quid a seat circus of White Hart Lane? Dont think he realised that I needed all my cash for the overpriced Steak Pies (they were nice though, Pukka ones are my favourites).